Learning Myths and Leprechauns (*)

Recently, I faced a common myth I wanted to cover as a small contribution to a better framework of references in our domain.

« People remember 10% of what they read,
20% of what they see,
30% of what they hear, etc. »

Ever heard this assumption? It is also known as Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience (1969).

Below are two examples you may encounter very often:

False, myth…It’s once again a conceptual representation that was never supported by real data.

So please, stop spreading this.

The graph is representative of a larger problem. The numbers presented on the graph have been circulating in our industry since the late 1960’s, and they have no research backing whatsoever. Dr. JC Kinnamon (2002) of Midi, Inc., searched the web and found dozens of references to those dubious numbers in college courses, research reports, and in vendor and consultant promotional materials.

It may sounds anecdotic, but consider that  » Specifically, the APSC (The Australian Public Sector Commission), starting in 2011, encouraged the Australian public sector to embrace 70-20-10 « .
If this fact is merely an intuition, it has deep consequences!

If you have any doubt (and you should), please read Will Thalheimer’s blog, like worklearning.com/2006/05/01/peo…(2002):

« Moreover, general statements on the effectiveness of learning methods are not credible—learning results depend on too many variables to enable such precision.« 

Will Thalheimer

Context and topic matters

A study was conducted in 2018 Johnson, S. J., Blackman, D. A., & Buick, F. (2018). The 70:20:10 framework and the transfer of learning. Human Resource Development Quarterly. Advance online publication. It is covered in The 70-20-10 Framework Gets Its First Scientific Investigation.
You will discover that there is even a Debunker Club of learning myths!

Mainly, if the 70-20-10 framework seems theoretically appealing, real learning in the workplace heavily depend on the context.

What you teach should also leads you to carefully design the way you teach.

We need to help each other improve

We all are contributing to myths spreading. I have and I surely still use some unsupported assumptions. Only through collective effort and mutual correction, can we improve our framework of references. A good practice maybe starting to track the « we all know… » statement: really? How do we?

We All Know… and Other Warning Signs

Buyer beware! Vendors are now utilizing confirmatory-bias methodologies to sprinkle their verbal and visual communications with research-sounding sound bites. Because we are human, this persuasion technique is likely to snare us.

Other resources on learning myths

Preparing this article, I came across different sources that I share with you below.

Many are related to the book (2017) « Learn Better » d’Ulrich Boser that I have not read yet.
So, if any of you did, please share your experience…
(seems the book is interesting despite some errors that Internet will help you correcting).

Some english articles covering this book and some myths I once believed:

“Most of us drive every day, but most of us have not gotten better at driving.

Putting in a lot of hours doesn’t always mean you’ll become good at something.”

Ulrich Boser

French article3 mythes sur l’apprentissage auxquels vous croyez sûrement :

1) nous avons des styles d’apprentissage différents,
2) le cône d’apprentissage,
3) plus vous consacrez de temps à l’apprentissage, plus vous apprenez.

The article Learning Theories Gone Wild: Urban Myths that Hurt Your Learning Designs also quotes  John Medina’s book, Brain Rules:

These strategies all can enhance our ability to remember:

  • Space the learning out. Implement it in small chunks, not as one long session.
  • Provide a lot of repetition. If we want to remember, we have to repeat things over and over. (Yes, those flashcards really worked in helping us learn things such as anatomy, multiplication, etc.)
  • Deliberately insert attention getters every 10 minutes or so. We get easily bored and we don’t pay attention to boring things. About every 10 minutes we need to re-engage that learner by introducing something that sparks emotion or interest.
  • Provide relevant feedback. Medina doesn’t talk about feedback in his brain rules, but Will Thalheimer does as does other research. (Ruth Clark and Richard Mayers’ book, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction offers nice guidance.)
  • Remember that visuals typically trump text in our memory. We more easily recall a picture than verbiage. Clark and Mayer talk about visuals; Medina does as well. They all offer compelling info on how we tend to think in pictures, not words.

A final one? Learners know best!

This is also a well-spread myth: “Learners know best. For maximum engagement, let learners be self-directed. If we “force” learners down a linear path, we will de-motivate them.” ( Learning Theories Gone Wild: Urban Myths that Hurt Your Learning Designs )

If this is what you believe, you may well read Dr. Thalheimer (2014) :


Article publié initialement sur LinkedIn (1 juillet 2019)

(*) titre en référence à un excellent livre de Laurent Bossavit dont j’ai tiré un article : LAURENT BOSSAVIT, LEPRECHAUNSBUSTER

Laisser un commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur la façon dont les données de vos commentaires sont traitées.